A Wise Way to Preserve the Food Chain

For years farmers on kibbutz and moshav cooperative farms in the Carmel region have tried unsuccessfully to fend off the rodents that damage their banana plantations and other field crops. Students at the Carmel Vayam school have come up with an original and natural idea for getting rid of the rodents. Owls are their "biological pesticide," one that will prey on rats and other field rodents. The owl is considered one of the best weapons against pesky rodents, eating up to 10 in one night and thousands over the nesting season, in the spring.

"The farmers do not have to use poisons to kill the rodents," explains Sigal Ofer, a sixth-grade student who is participating in the project. "The owls will hunt them, and the owl population will grow while the rodent population shrinks." Ofer, along with her friends and their parents, built 10 owl nesting boxes, and hung them on the sides of the classroom facing the open areas near the school. This gives the owls easy access to the nests. "The owl is a night hunter and has very sharp eyesight and hearing," said Adi Zalmanovich, explaining why they chose owls. "Also, there are already a lot of owls and they are attracted by the rodents." Amit Banjio, another student, confidently explains the great idea behind the project. "We are trying to preserve the food chain and make things the way they were," he said. "The poisons the farmers spray kill the mice, but the owls that eat them get killed, too, and a larger scavenger that eats the owl will die, and they will all become extinct."

The outcome remains unclear, but the students are optimistic and willing to be patient.